Photo: Leopoldo Nin

Model United Nations and NYPIRG Co-host CUNY’s First Climate Summit at Queens College

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Queens College’s Model United Nations and New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) held the CUNY Climate Summit at Queens College on February 14th. It was the first event of its kind ever hosted, and it was coordinated by QC students with the intention of informing students about climate change and its related issues. They gathered four panelists with various areas of expertise to facilitate their efforts.

The meeting began with the President of Model UN, Omar Ahmed, introducing the event’s panelists. Among them was Brooklyn College physics professor Dr. Micha Tomkiewicz, who gave a 20 minute presentation following introductions. In addition to being a physics professor, Dr. Tomkiewicz is the founding director of the Environmental Studies Program and Electrochemistry Institute at Brooklyn College.

His presentation provided an introduction to the science behind climate change. It also outlined some of the efforts being made to combat climate change within New York City, alongside the challenges being faced. He emphasized that although utilizing sustainable energy is beneficial for society and the environment, it is twice as costly in comparison to energy gained from burning fossil fuels.

Despite some of the disadvantages presented by utilizing sustainable energy, Dr. Tomkiewicz believes that a balance can be achieved between creating a healthier environment and maintaining our standard of living.

“The thing to remember is that creating a sustainable New York requires a collective effort. By taking action at different levels, we can all contribute to a greener, healthier, and more resilient city of the future,” he said.

The following portion of the event consisted of pizza and refreshments being served as Ahmed asked the panel questions regarding the intersection of climate economics and public policy. Ahmed posed a question concerning efforts to mitigate climate change and inquired about any legislative measures enacted.

All panel members agreed that reducing the emission of greenhouse gasses in New York City is an important element in combating climate change and creating a sustainable environment. According to panel member Dr. Natalie Vena from the Urban Studies department, buildings are more responsible for greenhouse gas emissions in the city than transportation.

Dr. Vena informed attendees of legislative efforts being made to combat climate change. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act which mandates drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in New York state by 2050, was passed by the state of New York in 2019.

Additionally, Local Law 97, another bill passed in 2019, mandates that buildings over 25,000 square feet become more energy efficient by reducing the combustion of fossil fuels.

The panel also spoke of other bills attempting to hold the appropriate institutions responsible for climate change. This includes the Climate Change Superfund Act, which aims to hold specific companies liable for their contributions to climate change in New York State.

NYPIRG Board member Abhinandan Gaba, along with Ahmed, organized the first CUNY Climate Summit with the intention of bringing attention to a topic that doesn’t seem to be getting enough of it. This event was successful in doing just that, but they hope this is the beginning of something greater.

“We understand that this may not be the topic at the forefront of every student’s mind. But by organizing this event, we hope to initiate a discussion that can develop into a larger CUNY conference next year,” said Gaba.

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